Students may well be aware by now that we had submitted an application to protest in front of the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center on Wednesday at 2 pm. They may also be aware that the application was denied, and a followup application was similarly denied. We believe that this is an injustice, committed in direct violation of the Rensselaer Student Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities which states that “The denial of access to facilities or reduction of funds shall not be used by the Institute or the Rensselaer Union as a means of censorship or suppression of any lawful activity.”
As we were very clear in our meeting with the Acting Dean of Students, Cary Dresher, we had no plans to commit illegal activity nor to condone it from anyone who chose to participate; we believe that our request is entirely covered under this statement.
While we considered taking action through RPI’s disciplinary system, we felt that the system would be too slow for us to get a judgement and still plan for a demonstration of the scale we intended. Thankfully, Professor Puka has announced that he will be holding his class outside of EMPAC on Wednesday at 2 pm and has invited the entire student body to participate. We would like to formally note our gratitude for Professor Puka’s commitment to student rights as well as the freedoms of speech and assembly.
Since this event was announced, other developments have occurred that have changed the nature of the event. Our little proposed peaceful demonstration has blossomed into a full-fledged movement, with nearly 2,000 signatures on a change.org petition (http://poly.news/s/nwhdv/) and an RPI petition that passed the requirement for an official response in record time (http://poly.news/s/2wo66/). Students and alumni that have felt disenfranchised for years now have an opportunity to be heard. Influential figures, such as former Director of the Union, Rick Hartt ’70, have spoken out in favor of our cause (http://poly.news/s/ujae0/). The media has taken an interest.
We know that the only way to keep our rights is to exercise them, and we hope that students agree.
Gregory Bartell, ’17
Dan Seel, ’18